TEAM COLUMBIA. Kim Kirchen of Luxemburg, now wearing the Green Jersey of the sprint leader and who finished 7th in last year's Tour, is riding for an American team. Team Columbia (the sportswear company) is based in the USA and includes American George Hincapie (pictured in helmet), the former faithful lieutenant of Lance Armstrong. Columbia recently became the name sponsor of the team that has been known as Team Highroad.
GARMIN-CHIPOTLE CYCLING. There is another American team in the Tour--Team Garmin-Chipotle, formerly known as Slipstream. That's Garmin GPS products and, yes, Chipotle gourmet burrito restaurants. Team Garmin-Chipotle features team leader Christian VandeVelde and two more Americans.
POST-DISCOVERY OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS. These two American teams have been emerging on the national and international bicycle racing stage impressively over the past several years, but this is their first appearance in the Tour de France. This is quite encouraging, particularly after the demise of the Discovery Channel cycling team (formerly U S Postal) of Lance Armstrong at the end of 2007. It's good for American cycling, giving a platform for young racers to aim for. Though only four Americans are in this year's Tour de France, each is part of a highly-competitive team.
AMERICANS IN FRANCE. The four Americans racing in this year's Tour are: George Hincapie (Columbia), Christian VandeVelde (Garmin-Chipotle), Wil Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle), and Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle). Unfortunately, the American most likely to have been on the top-three podium in Paris, Levi Leipheimer, joined the Astana team which was subsequently suspended as further discipline for Alexander Vinokourov's doping in last year's TdF. Usuals also missing from this year's Tour squads, Americans Bobby Julich, Fred Rodriguez, and David Zabriske. It remains to be seen whether or not Tyler Hamilton or Floyd Landis ever ride professionally again after disciplinary action for apparent doping.